While I will admit that one of the main reasons why we decided to homeschool was the amount of testing that was happening in public schools, I still think that testing does, actually, have a place in learning. So, thanks to Seton Testing Services, I have decided to give The Monk a complete core battery test to make sure that we are on the right track. Granted, I chose the first part of the second grade and we don't actually have to do any testing for our state until third, but I'm really curious about where we are at (ok, this might be some of the left over remnants of my teaching days and data collecting). I'm thinking, then, in the fall that we do the upper second grade and then, as required by our state's law, in the spring our official 3rd grade. I will probably do this from now on. Maybe twice a year. I don't know. There's a part of me that thinks it's important to gauge our progress and a part that is still like "down with testing!" Anyway, I think what really makes a difference in the testing is that there isn't as much stress or emphasis on the outcomes. It's more relaxed and I can give The Monk the accommodations that he needs without everyone getting all worked up over it all. It also gives us a week to talk half days and a mini-break (I think I've already discussed what happens when The Monk doesn't have a structured day/week. We'll see how all of this goes and (hopefully) this will prove to all the nay-sayers out there that we are growing our son in leaps and bounds by homeschooling (not that I care what they think anyway!)
Earth day has always been something that I feel that students should be aware of. And, while we are rather environmentally conscious at our house, I still like taking time on this special day to really show love for our Mother Earth. Our project today was to make some recycled materials flowers. I found this on the Internet through Parents magazine here. We used some bamboo skewers, some old Christmas tissue paper (you know the kind, it's crammed into a bag that you hope to reuse one day, the tissue all wrinkled and a bit torn, but you can't seem to part with it because it matches the gift bag perfectly!), and some toilet paper rolls (which we always seem to be saving for projects just like this). We painted the flowers some fun spring colors and added some construction paper leaves and viola! Some pretty flowers to help celebrate Earth day. We even walked over to my parents house where The Monk could share his flowers with his Mamu. It was a nice (cheap) project that was fun and really creative.
It's only Wednesday and it feels as though it's been a long week already. I suppose it doesn't help that I have been sick and The Monk has not (even The Hubs has been ill - and The Monk is not), so making it through the day has been...challenging. Not to mention that it's just been gorgeous outside and all The Monk has wanted to do is play. But, we are still making our way through lessons (even with a few tantrums - mostly thrown by me). We are right in the middle of our Picasso unit. The Monk is actually really enjoying it and is has started to copy the style of Cubism into his own drawings. We are drawing our Fairy Tale unit to a close (today we are going to watch Tangled and then compare it to the Grimm version of Rapunzel), and our dharma talks are going really well, actually. Unfortunately, we are still working on implementing what we are learning during those talks into our every day lives (although we've been doing homeschooling for several months now, I'm still getting attitude and procrastination from The Monk in regards to doing the work). But, I'm able to bring things back to what we talked about during that time and he pulls himself together.
I'm not sure why we are still struggling in our day to day. I would like to think that it's because it's getting warmer and The Monk just loves being outside (although his allergies often prevent him from doing a whole lot). I would also like to think that, perhaps, we are still going through the phase of getting used to being home and the whole mom/teacher dynamic. I'm not sure though. I know that I don't want to put him back in public school (he's actually doing well with his lessons, when he actually sits down and does them), and I don't want to go back to the classroom with the way that the current educational system trend is going. I want to teach HIM. I think a lot of it is that he's stubborn and strong-willed. He likes to dig his heels in and think that he can do what he wants. I have to remember my own lessons from our dharma talks in the morning and remind myself to be patient, to be kind, and to not want to lose my absolute s**t when he is being stubborn. Especially when I am sick and not feeling up to par.
One of the things that I have struggled with most while I've been homeschooling is curriculum. Now, I feel as though I have actually got a good handle on the typical subjects of math, science, reading, etc., but what I'm really struggling with is finding material to help my son grow as a Buddhist. I follow a lot of homeschooling blogs, but they are all mostly Christian. That's all fine and good and if they feel as though "God called them" to homeschool their children, great! And it's wonderful that there are all these fantastic curriculum choices for those out there who want to include The Creation story, or put Jesus into every day math (I mean, why not? I believe the Devil put letters into it - hence Algebra), but there is really nothing out there for those of us who are not Christians. There are planners, and reading materials and Bible studies and, and, and. There is nothing out there for us who homeschool as Buddhists (or Hindu, or Muslim). There just doesn't seem to be a market for anything outside of mainstream Christianity. And I don't think that it's fair. However, I am not going to get on my soapbox about that. I'm wanna talk about what I'm doing DESPITE all of that...
To supplement my son's learning, during his morning pages we have started having Dharma Talks. This is that time where we read some of our children's books on Buddhism and talk about what it means to follow the Eight Fold Path and to practice being a kind and compassionate person. I'm lucky in the fact that I can surf the Internet with relative ease and find what I'm looking for if I dig hard enough for it (granted, I shouldn't have to dig for it, but again...no soapbox), so I'm able to locate some coloring pages and such and we already have a pretty good library on Buddhist picture books for kids (which were also rather difficult to find at times).
Although we've only been doing these Dharma Talks for a few days, I feel as though we are making some progress on his attitude and I feel better about educating my son about our religion. We don't make it to the temple as often as we'd like for services (it's rather far from where we live), so being able to talk with him about what it means to be Buddhist and how we can become better people through Buddha's teachings really gives me a sense of comfort that I am truly giving him the education that he needs and deserves.
As I've been reading the various homeschool blogs that I follow, I have noticed that a bunch of people out there are already looking, planning, and preparing their curriculum for next year. Since I am already ahead of the game in this endeavor it seems, we are simply extending our learning. What does that mean? Well, I'm simply moving things into our day that, normally, would have been started at the beginning of a "new school year." We aren't going to take the summer off, so I might as well just add into our day what I want to do. These new things are Spanish, music, art, grammar, and getting back into spelling (I got all frustrated and lazy with it, so spelling actually got put off to the side - then it got lost!). For Spanish, we aren't going to do anything very formal. I got some workbooks for The Monk to work through, so we are going to try that, you know, just to get his feet wet and have fun with getting some of the basics down. For music and art, I am using the curriculum that were created by one of the bloggers that I follow at Confessions of a Homeschooler. She has two great units on famous artists and composers, so we are going to make our way through those. For grammar, I actually broke down and bought a grammar curriculum, because, like I said in my last post, I hate teaching grammar and I figured that if I had a curriculum to follow, I might be confident in teaching it. And finally, for spelling, again, I broke down and bought an outlined program for it. I tried just doing it on my own, and like I said, I got all lazy with creating spelling lists and giving tests and practices and...just ugh. I figure I am already working hard enough, I don't need to reinvent the wheel when I know that, somewhere, it has already been created. Maybe, as I grow more confident in my homeschooling abilities, I'll be able to create my own curriculum and sell it...maybe. Right now, I'm just concentrating on getting The Monk to do his math work without having a fit and trying to get housework done while I'm at it.
When I was teaching Literacy in public school, there was always a point when I would have to ultimately break down and do something that, if truth be told, I didn't really have the training to do: teach grammar. Now, I don't have an English degree - I just happened to take enough English classes to be considered Highly Qualified in my profession (about 36 credit hours or so). Since I don't have an English degree, I didn't take any pedagogical classes on how to teach prepositions, prepositional phrases, or complex and compound sentences. I mostly winged it when it became obvious that my students had no idea what a preposition was or how it differed from a verb. Granted, being a highly intelligent person with a vast background knowledge (and a few helpful sites on the internet), I was able to soundly instruct my kids on verbs, adverbs, and the like with relative success and now I feel rather comfortable when diagramming a sentence for telling The Monk what a noun is.
All that being said, there was a REASON why I didn't take said college courses on teaching grammar. I really don't like it. Don't get me wrong, I understand the necessity of understanding the various parts of speech and how, in the long run, they help us to construct meaningful and interesting sentences. That doesn't mean I like to teach it. In fact, I loathe teaching grammar. It's not as easy as one might thing to show another person what a preposition is, or how a verb is actually important to make a complete sentence, much less why we need to know these things. This was very true with a bunch of second-language learning middle schoolers and it's even more true while trying to teach a 7 year-old. Luckily, (more for me than for him), he was actually able to tie a lot of our learning on prepositions today to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. While he was drawing his pictures in his workbook today, there was a bunch of "Michelangelo goes into the sewer!" and "Donatello goes through the tunnel!" This certainly made it easier for me...somewhat. I still find it difficult to describe "at" or "during." What's even worse, this was only the beginning of our new 3rd grade grammar curriculum. Ee gads!
How it all started...
I was a public school teacher for 6 years in a very urban middle school for both 7th and 8th grade. As the red-tape got thicker and teaching became more of a business rather than a place to prepare young minds to enter into the world, I decided that if I was going to work that hard to give an education to someone, it should be my own son. So, my adventures in homeschooling has begun.
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